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Restaurant 12 in Little Manila in Carson, CA, USA.

12. Tita Celia, menu says "The pride of Bulacan in Carson"
241 W. Carson St. (northeast corner at Moneta Ave)
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-834-6289, closed Sunday

10/21/00 - Their new plan may be to have caldereta (or kaldereta) maybe twice a week, maybe Tuesday and Friday. Call for the most correct info. I did rate Iba'n Express (16) as having the best dish in the area: beef caldereta, so I wanted to try the goat kaldereta here. Sometimes caldereta starting with a 'c' implies beef and kaldereta starting with a 'k' implies goat, but it's always better to ask.

Got here Friday 10/20/00 about 6:30 p.m. for another two-item combo, and the place was full and busy, mostly with to-go business. I got the steamed rice, fish soup, and pork adobo, and they were very good as usual - see below for details. The goat in the kaldereta was very mild with no strange goat taste or smell. The kaldereta had potatoes, mild peppers, and a hot pepper. The sauce was very good with just a hint of heat untill I ate the hot pepper. That I noticed, but it did no damage. I asked the chef why there were no green olives in the kaldereta, and he said cause he ran out.

Here the dishes alway taste good, but another reason I like it is the lean meat. However, tonight was the excepting. The kaldereta had a lot of fat and a bone and with the vegetables provided very little meat. But, what meat there was sure tasted good. The pork adobo was a little fatty for the first time. I did mention the fat to the chef and why I try to avoid fat, and he said to ask for him when I order. Go to Iba'n Express (16) for the beef caldereta or here for the goat kaldereta.

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10/19/00 - These guys have about the best pork adobo and beef mechado in the area, and I rated them as the number one restaurant. I returned 10/18/00 about 6 p.m. to try other dishes. I got the two-item combo with "mystic" [more likely bistic or bistek] and "bowl-la-bowl-la" which comes with steamed rice and a small bowl of soup for eat-in. That totaled about $3.50 plus tax, and I ate it there. I'm not sure how to spell these dishes, but that's how they sounded to me.

"Mystic," English name beef steak, is sliced beef and onions stewed in a soy-flavored gravy. One girl said "mystic" might be a mispronunciation of beef steak. "Bowl-la-bowl-la" is medium-sized meat balls stewed in a sweet and sour sauce, and that could be the English name. The sauce was only slightly yellow, not tinted with unnecessary tomato or red coloring like so many of these sauces. There were a few shredded vegetables.

Many Philippine dishes are variations on Chinese dishes. I would guess China was the origin of these dishes. Chinese actually do many stewed dishes, but stews seldom appear in American-Chinese restaurants since they'd rather serve the almost instant stir-fried dishes. If you want to try a variation on a Chinese stew, you may find it in a Philippine restaurant.

The beef steak was very tender and mostly lean. The soy-flavored gravy was ok but not inspired. The meat balls were good, but the sweet and sour sauce had the typical American taste. I'd rate the ingredients as good but the sauces as average. However, I personally don't care for any version of either sauce and might not get either again. The steamed rice was good. For soup they had both chicken and fish, and I got the fish. It was sour, probably flavored with bitter melon which I didn't see, and was good. The overall grade for most people would be good.

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They do have a menu to-go, mostly in Filipino. Combo plates with rice and soup: 1 item at $2.50, 2 items at $3.50, and 3 items at $5.25. Menu also lists breakfast with no price, short orders mostly at $3.50, and catering items up to $95. Hours are listed as 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Sunday.

7/23/99 - I went here on Friday, about 8 p.m. for a one-item combo plate at $2.50. You get one item with steamed, white, slightly sticky rice, and a small bowl of soup. I checked out the steam table and asked the girl what she thought I might like. She told me about pork adobo, beef mechado, and something else, and I picked the pork. This was chunks of pork stewed in vinegar and other stuff. The pork came out very tender and tasty, and I didn't even notice the vinegar. And the sauce was great also, very rich. At this price I was afraid the meat would be very fatty or tough, but it wasn't. I don't remember seeing any fat from the outside, and there was only a little fat on the inside. I appreciate that. I forget to count how many chunks of pork I got, but I would guess about six, and that made a good meal. The soup was beef broth with chunks of vegetables and was very good also. This was a very good meal, and afterwards I went over and thanked them. This type of food holds up very well on a steam table. They don't have air conditioning, so you might want to sit by the fan. PS - These places tend to rotate dishes, so if you want something specific, it's better to call first and check.

A note on salt. On their own, the pork sauce was a little salty and the soup was rather salty compared to the way I cook. Perhaps the salt concentrated from sitting on the steam table, perhaps that's the way customers want it, or perhaps it's like the Chinese "rice-pushing" dishes. In southern China (except at banquets) rice is the meal, and the other dishes are eaten in small quantities to help "push down" the rice. So "rice-pushing" dishes tend to be overly tasty and perhaps salty to overcome the bland, steamed rice.

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